Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Sunday, December 09, 2021

First there was Black Friday, signifying the start of concentrated consumerism to start the year-ending holiday season.

With the birth of ecommerce came Cyber Monday, which despite its dubious pedigree has now become more or less bona fide as a Web shopping event.

Lately, enough retailers have been jumping the sales-rush gun on Thanksgiving Day itself to give birth to a nascent Gray Thursday phenomenon.

You’d think those mile-markers would suffice for the retail world. But for good measure, the second Monday in December is being christened with a color:

In fact, the second week of December is traditionally so big that the folks at e-commerce giant eBay have come up with their own moniker for the weekday that kicks it off: “Green Monday” (a reference to cash, rather than eco-friendly shopping). Company employees coined the term this month after realizing that, for the past three years, the strongest sales day for Shopping.com and other eBay sites was the second Monday of December. “It isn’t Black Friday and it isn’t Cyber Monday,” says eBay spokesperson Wendy Sept. “Green Monday is the day that people actually go online and buy.”

So what’s next? A “Blue Monday”, in honor of New Order’s techno-tastic 12-inch anthem? Joy (Division) to the world, shoppers!

Unlike Cyber Monday’s ascent from pure hype to actuality, I don’t see Green Monday catching on as a trigger day for online shoppers. There’s no real pivot day there to build from: Thanksgiving is a day/weekend off for most people, so the piggybacking of Black Friday and Cyber Monday there isn’t a stretch. But the middle of December? Even with the impending approach of Christmas, there’s nothing there to provide traction.

That doesn’t mean Green Monday isn’t valid, to a point. It’s supposed to signal the most intensive online shopping week of the holiday season, when people can count on reasonable shipping rates to deliver their gifts on time. That likely will be the case. It just won’t serve as a call to action for e-retailers, because without another event day to moor it, it won’t break through the existing marketing clutter to resonate with shoppers. It’ll remain a reactive measurement tool, and not morph into a proactive promotional one.

I’ll take this opportunity to shill slightly by recommending the Chase Paymentech Pulse Index for tracking online retail sales for Green Monday (actual numbers won’t be posted until mid-day Tuesday, after they’ve been compiled). I’m working on the analysis and promotion of that Index this ho-ho-holiday season, so I’m being a bit self-serving; on the other hand, I can vouch for it as a reliable business-tool benchmark.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 12/09/2021 09:36:33 PM
Category: Business, Internet, Pop Culture, Wordsmithing
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Last week, when the the Brookings Institution released a report on urban quality of life called “Footloose and Fancy Free: A Field Survey of Walkable Urban Places in the Top 30 U.S. Metropolitan Areas”, don’t think I didn’t notice which city came in dead last:

The survey looked at which cities have the largest number of “walkable urban places” per capita, defined as compact areas in cities and suburbs that put residents within walking distance of work, entertainment venues, schools and shopping. Every city on the list has at least one success story.

Top-ranked Washington, D.C., has Georgetown. Boston, No. 2 on the list, has Harvard Square. The Miami area, in eighth place, has Coral Gables.

The Tampa area has nothing, according to [Brookings study author Christopher] Leinberger.

Having lived in the Tampa Bay area for 15-odd years, and having attempted more than once to do walkies around town, I can attest to the absence of pedestrian routes. There’s some question as to whether or not Brookings gave fair weight to St. Petersburg and its fairly friendly walkaround downtown area. I’m not going to bother digging into the full study; I’ll assume that whatever pluses the ‘Burg contributed were far outweighed by the car-centric concrete ribbons that dominate the rest of Pinellas and Hillsborough.

This isn’t anything new, of course. The funniest part of the reaction wasn’t this subsequent attempt by Sue Carlton to walk one of Tampa’s unwalkable walkways; rather, it’s that it was practically identical to Sandra Thompson’s walking experiment more than two years ago.

Actually, I take that back. The funniest part of the reaction is actually this pathetic rebuttal:

[Pinellas tourism chief D.T. Minich] touted a survey by the Web site RunThePlanet.com that ranked the city of Dunedin as America’s most walkable small city. While Brookings relied on transit statistics and demographics, the Web site took input from real visitors, he said in a news release headlined “Dunedin’s Top Ranking Debunks Brookings Institution Study.”

I wouldn’t expect much infrastructure change in two years, despite all the hand-wringing from local politicians. Like I said, it’s nothing new, and as long as more people keep moving in — a trend I’m sure is as strong as ever — there’s no reason to give more than lip service. I still have friends and acquaintances in the Bay Area, and while the complaints about traffic are getting more and more frequent, I haven’t heard from anyone itching to move out or look for a walkable home-work neighborhood.

Personally, I don’t miss the disconnectedness of having to drive a long haul to and from everywhere. I’ve gladly traded the worn-out shoe leather that New York requires for the car-cocooning that comes with Tampa Bay living. The weather is another story, but no trade-off is perfect.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 12/09/2021 07:30:07 PM
Category: Florida Livin', Society
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Radiohead managed to make a lot of noise with the pay-what-you-want Web release of its “In Rainbows” album.

So now, two months later, what’s been the tip-jar tally from asking for money for an otherwise free mp3? The best estimate says it was pretty good, even with all the free(down)loaders:

A statement from the band rejected estimates by the online survey company ComScore that during October about three-fifths of worldwide downloaders took the album free, while the rest paid an average of $6.

Factoring in free downloads, ComScore said the average price per download was $2.26. But it did not specify a total number of downloads, saying only that a “significant percentage” of the 1.2 million people who visited the Radiohead Web site, inrainbows.com, in October downloaded the album. Under a typical recording contract, a band receives royalties of about 15 percent of an album’s wholesale price after expenses are recovered. Without middlemen, and with zero material costs for a download, $2.26 per album would work out to Radiohead’s advantage — not to mention the worldwide publicity.

A half-full/half-empty scenario. On the one hand, the band could have made a lot more money had they been able to extract payment from every single download. On the other hand, that’s unrealistic in the Internet Age; consider that had the album been locked up behind a payment-only barrier, there wouldn’t have been nearly as many downloads — instead, an even smaller percentage would have plunked down money, while everyone else would have just waited for the tracks to show up on P2P networks.

And as it is, Radiohead came out ahead, financially and exposure-wise. Essentially, the money they “lost” to free downloads would have been eaten by the recording-label middlemen had they released a conventional album. It was at worst a wash for the band, and actually probably a marginally better haul, as illustrated above.

Whether or not this gameplan is applicable to other artists, particularly those starting out, is questionable. Radiohead was able to leverage their established stature to make a lot of noise over this stunt. Even they admit that it’s probably not a sustainable way to sell their music. And I think that, if there were a reliable way to sell an album at a set price, without having to worry about the tracks leaking out in free-downloadable form almost immediately afterward (or even beforehand), none of this maneuvering would happen, even when the bands are in charge.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 12/09/2021 04:35:49 PM
Category: Business, Internet, Pop Culture
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The past several days weren’t kind ones for Web 2.0 sites starting with the letter “F”:

- Findory, a news/blog content aggregator founded by Amazon.com alumnus Greg Linden, was shuttered toward the end of November.

At least Linden left a note, unlike:

- Feedster, the onetime RSS-feed search engine, which up and disappeared without advanced warning.

From what I understand, Findory was a victim of Linden’s desire to just move on to something else. Whether or not it truly reached the goal of forwarding the personalization of content delivery, as the goodbye note hints, is debatable; my opinion is that if it actually was a success in that space, it would still be online today. As for Feedster, I know that that site was essentially directionless for the past year or more, despite attracting modest amounts of venture capital funding early in its existence.

I don’t think either of these sites presented compelling enough reasons for anyone to use them instead of Google or another heavyweight content aggregator. And if users weren’t loading up the page, there’d be scant reason for advertisers to sign up. (Whether or not they were looking to become ad vehicles is irrelevant — the Web-wide syndication that Google AdSense has achieved makes it hard for a Web-content venture to avoid including an advertising component in its business model.) At least Technorati, for one, has managed to position itself as a valuable source of niche information, i.e. a “blogosphere authority” (even though I think that site’s credibility is pretty shaky). Findory and Feedster didn’t do that consistently enough, and so they’re gone.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 12/09/2021 03:31:40 PM
Category: Internet
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